Law enforcement spent $285K patrolling pandemic-related protests in downtown Raleigh
Posted May 21, 2020 4:33 p.m. EDT
Updated May 21, 2020 8:10 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — Protesters demanding the resumption of business and social activities in North Carolina during the coronavirus pandemic have marched through downtown Raleigh on eight days in the last five weeks, and law enforcement agencies have spent nearly $285,000 in manpower to keep demonstrators and surrounding neighborhoods safe.
ReOpenNC organized the first protest on April 14, which cost the Raleigh Police Department, North Carolina State Capitol Police, the Wake County Sheriff's Office, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation a combined $19,153.
The cost ballooned in the weeks that followed, as ReOpenNC held protests on five consecutive Tuesdays:
The protests grew in size until April 28, when four people were arrested after authorities said one man damaged a gate at the Executive Mansion and all four then refused to get off a nearby sidewalk when officers ordered them to do so.
“Once we had the arrests, we knew the climate could change, so obviously we had to prepare for that," said Capt. Dedric Bond, a 25-year Raleigh police veteran, explaining the $60,000 cost of maintaining control over the May 5 protest, which was much smaller than earlier ones.
“The planning for the events is dictated by the behavior of the crowd,” Bond said.
A separate group, comprised of armed anti-government demonstrators, walked the streets of downtown Raleigh while openly displaying firearms on May 1, May 9 and May 16, racking up other costs for law enforcement
On May 1, it cost $52,322 to patrol the 10 people who showed up with handguns and high-powered assault rifles.
“I’d rather have too many than not enough. I can always downgrade if I need to," Bond said. "I would much rather have the resources available to me right away.”
Authorities spent $9.919 on the May 9 protest and $5,063 the following week.
Altogether, the Raleigh Police Department has spent $179,410 on the eight protests, including $70,386 in overtime costs.
"Either way you look at it, it is a lot of money," said Bond, who is having to pull money from other funds to adequately staff the protests. “I am taking these officers away from their regular duties in order to work this, and then some officers I am actually pulling in on their days off.”
So far, the four agencies assisting Raleigh police have spent a combined $105,000:
- Wake County Sheriff's Office - $43,693
- State Capitol Police - $39,312
- Highway Patrol - $16,826
- SBI - $5,537
“That additional police presence is to minimize that panic, minimize that fear," Bond said. “We want to make sure the event is safe, there’s no civil disobedience [and] there’s no violence.”
Ashley Smith, co-founder of ReOpenNC, said protesting is an essential activity, and the $284,780 spent on manpower is a fraction of the losses that can be attributed to economic restrictions that remain in place across North Carolina during the pandemic.
“I pay my taxes, so if that is the cost, then that’s the cost," Smith said. “If they open up, we’ll stop protesting. They'll stop having to spend any money to man protests. Then, we’ll see our businesses get back, and we can all start to recover our economy.”
ReOpenNC has kept police informed about their weekly plans, which Bond said has helped in the department's preparations.
Next week, the group plans Memorial Day marches in Raleigh, Charlotte, Asheville, Greensboro and Wilmington to continue to pressure for a quick resumption of business and social activities.
"People have had enough," Smith said, adding that the reopening phase scheduled to start Friday is filled with arbitrary rules with no data to back them up.
Businesses will continue to struggle if they aren't allowed to reopen and regulate themselves to ensure the safety of their customers and employees, she said.
The Memorial Day marches will be family-friendly and focused on veterans, Smith said.
Bond said all eight demonstrations to date have gone "fairly well," with the exception of some people verbally abusing officers.
“We have a lot of experience in protests, so the officers know that they need to remain calm," he said. "That’s the biggest thing is remaining calm [and] not responding to the insults."